It was a rather belated homecoming, Walter "Bud" Freeman returning to Memorial Stadium, where he was first a fan and then a front-office employee of the Orioles. Now he's going to be directing promotions and handling public address announcements for the Bowie/Baltimore Baysox of the Eastern League.
The Orioles, when Freeman worked for them before 1982, had little realization of his value. That was unfortunate. He was well-recognized in the business community, filled more speaking engagements across the state than any employee and maybe was so popular there were some men with less talent, the "bean counters," who visualized him as some kind of threat.
Such a contention may sound bizarre, but it doesn't mean it can't be true. Freeman left the Orioles as ticket manager to become general manager of the Baltimore Skipjacks. It was a dead-end street. Then he joined the sales staff of the Larry Beck Co., but continued to have a sports presence and a first-rate reputation.
Freeman has continued to be utilized, without an appearance fee, by the Oriole Advocates, the Oldtimers' Baseball PTC Association and other groups as a permanent master of ceremonies. In his travels, from Backbone Mountain to the flatlands of Wicomico County, he has made many friends for the organization he represents. You only need hear him speak.
There are eloquence and humor. For instance, talking at a Loyola College sports banquet, on a Mother's Day afternoon, he said: "It's always important to say 'I love you,' but the three most important words a mother likes to hear any day of the year are, 'Let's eat out.' "
The owner of the Bowie/Baltimore team, Peter Kirk, and general manager Keith Lupton are ecstatic over the reaction they've received since announcing Freeman has joined them. Things have already improved for Freeman: He actually has a room with a view.
When he worked at Memorial Stadium before, he was deep within the concrete catacombs, selling and arranging group sales and meeting the public one-on-one. It was a rare day when he got a chance to even look outside to see if the weather had changed. The former location had a prison-like confinement, not only for Freeman, but for all Orioles management. Now he has an office that at least has a window, overlooking the west-side parking lot.
"I am excited to be back in baseball," he said. "I met Keith Lupton a couple years ago when I was in Frederick to see a game. We've stayed in touch, and it just kind of happened I'm now with the club. I'll be doing a lot of things and working closely with PR man Dave Collins."
Freeman has been around long enough to remember when Baltimore had another minor-league club. They were the Orioles, International League vintage, before 1954.
"Sure, I relate to such heroes as Les Powers, 'Smokey Joe' Martin, Woody Abernathy, George Puccinelli, Howie Moss, Red Embree, Nick Etten, Al Cihocki, Sherman Lollar, Bob Latshaw and even Kenny Braun," Freeman said.
It's obvious Freeman has an understanding for what baseball has meant to Baltimore. He knows and reveres the historic names, such as Ned Hanlon, John McGraw, Jack Dunn and Babe Ruth.
For the present, Freeman, who was graduated from Baltimore City College and was raised in the stadium area, is excited about the Bowie-to-Baltimore concept.
"It will be a family-oriented operation," he said. "Parking will be free. Fans won't have access to the upper deck because it's not needed, but we will have a capacity of 19,000 downstairs."
Tickets will be $7 for boxes, $5 for adult general admission, $3 for senior citizens and children (ages 5-14), members of the military and students. If a child wears his Little League uniform, it means free admission. It's easy to see the effort that's being created for selling a minor-league product, even if there is major-league competition only four miles away.
The teams will, of course, be on the best of terms. After all, the Orioles are the parent club. It might evolve that Baltimore will be so supportive of the minor leagues, the team, when the time comes, may wonder if an eventual move south to dear ol' Bowie offers the same allure.
But, long range, baseball will be in Bowie. This is a stop-gap maneuver, a one-season shot. But it's going to be both popular and profitable.